In May 1998, Thich Nhat Hanh led a three-week mindfulness retreat in Burlington, Vermont, at which he delivered dharma teachings on the "Sixteen Ways of Breathing" from THE DISCOURSE ON THE AWARENESS OF BREATHING. This 279-page book is the transcribed record of that retreat, including three question-and-answer sessions. Thay offers lessons here on cultivating "the seeds of mindfulness, enlightenment, understanding, joy and loving kindness" (p. 97).
It is no surprise that Buddhist scholar, Robert Thurman, calls Thich Nhat Hanh "one of the greatest teachers of our time." This book provides easy-to-read instructions on "how to light the lamp of mindfulness and shine it on each moment, each act of the day. You do everything in the light of mindfulness. Mindfulness is the presence of God, is the energy of the Buddha within us, the element of holiness within us" (p. 41). Anyone can practice mindfulness. "You don't need to be a Buddhist," Thay says; "you don't need to be a Dharma teacher" (p. 43). Mindfulness is "deep looking" and "living deeply" (p. 66). Like the sun, when it touches something, it brings about transformation (p. 109). For instance, it allows us to discover everything in the cosmos in a flower: "the sunshine, a cloud, the earth, time, space, everything . . . except . . . a separate existence, a separate self" (p. 172).
Through mindfulness, we walk "the path of emancipation:" "We are free from birth and death. Our true nature is no-birth and no-death. We realize the ground of our being by looking deeply and touching reality deeply. This is the only way to dissipate our fears. If we have this deep insight, we will be liberated from our anguish and fear of being and nonbeing. The Buddha said that all fears and cravings are born from ignorance. Through knowledge and insight, we gain emancipation. We cannot have insight if we don't practice looking deeply. Looking deeply is the practice of meditation" (pp. 208-9). I have read more than a half dozen of Thich Nhat Hanh's books, and I will be adding this one to my list of favorites: BEING PEACE (1988), LIVING BUDDHA, LIVING CHRIST (1995), THE MIRACLE OF MINDFULNESS (1996), and GOING HOME: JESUS AND BUDDHA AS BROTHERS (1999).
In May, 1998, more than four hundred Buddhists from around the world joined Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poetry and peace advocate Thich Nhat Hanh's first 21-day retreat in Vermont for the purpose of experiencing "mindfulness". Comprising an in-depth instruction in the "Sixteen Ways of Breathing", The Path Of Emancipation is a transcription of Hanh's discourse and responses to questioners. This is a most remarkable and welcome addition to the growing library of Buddhist instructional literature available for western readers.